Grant to understand and improve depression related to childhood trauma

Christiaan Vinkers was recently awarded a grant by Stichting tot Steun VCVGZ (500kE) to investigate an innovative treatment for depression using trauma therapy that specifically aims to reverse the consequences of abuse or neglect during childhood in a single-blind randomized trial. Depression is a recurrent and debilitating psychiatric disorder. Even though antidepressants and psychotherapy are generally effective, targeted treatments are currently lacking. The heterogeneous nature of depressive symptoms is a major obstacle for the development of novel effective treatments. There is increasing evidence that depression related to childhood trauma (abuse or neglect before the age of 18) is clinically distinct with symptoms earlier in life that are more severe and recurrent. As childhood trauma has a prevalence of 25% in depressed patients, there is a large and unmet need for novel therapeutic strategies in this group.

Christiaan Vinkers will examine evidence-based trauma therapy (EMDR or trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy) and compare it to regular depression treatment in adult patients with depression and childhood trauma. Moreover, the project also aims to mechanistically understand how trauma therapies exert its effects at the level of the brain. Trauma therapies are evidence-based first-line interventions for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but have scarcely been tested in depression, and not at all for CT-related depression. Nevertheless, trauma therapy for CT-related depression is plausible in light of the prominent place of trauma in patients with this type of depression. We expect that trauma therapy will be a safe and rational strategy to enhance resilience and improve outcomes for depressed patients that have experienced childhood trauma. A large group of patients could directly benefit from this innovative hypothesis-driven strategy as these trauma therapies are already widely used outside the field of depression.

Christiaan was appointed as program leaders of Mood, Anxiety & Psychosis towards the start of 2019 and has acted since then as key opinion leader in reshaping this program, as it states on out website: “Our research program puts mood, anxiety, and psychosis at a central position and focusses as well on two major risk factors: stress and sleep”. See: https://www.amsterdamresearch.org/web/neuroscience/research/mood-anxiety-psychosis.htm